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The following feature story is a follow-up on last week’s breaking story about the need to protect tarpon from spearing in federal waters off Louisiana. It included many comments, including those  from Doctor Stein and  members of the Hell Divers. Those that contained no profanity are still viewable at the bottom of the article. Click here to read […]

There’s nothing wrong with spearfishing if it’s for food gathering or killing invasive species like lionfish

[dropcap]O[/dropcap]ver time, the traditionally open access to the seas for fishing purposes has caused serious depletion of the stocks of the United States fisheries. Between those who go to sea for their livelihood and ever-increasing numbers of sport fishermen, the strain on Gulf Coast stocks has steadily worsened. Attempts to preserve fisheries through area closings, gear restrictions, and seasonal limitations have had little effect in reversing declining stocks. Add spearfishing of  game fish like tarpon that are barely edible and you have sport fishermen, competing to catch and release fewer and smaller animals. Educated sportsmen should voice their opinions on the matters to ensure that their grandchildren are able to enjoy and appreciate these species as well some day.

Three more dead-just for the boast.

Two more dead-just for the boast. (From Hell Divers YouTube video.)

How do we assure that tarpon stocks will be able to replenish? Limited access, closed seasons, closed areas, and/or no kill sanctions? By denying tarpon the rights of a no-take game fish in federal waters we betray our own value as responsible anglers, conservationists and government administrators.

Believe it or not, there are no tarpon regulations in federal waters

If you are in federal waters, you could have the deck of your boat filled with dead tarpon and that would not be illegal. However, if you then landed in Florida, you would have a hard time proving they were taken in federal waters. Louisiana, on the other hand, is a different story since it also has no state regulations for tarpon. Spearing of tarpon in federal waters in the Gulf coast states by groups like the now notorious Hell Divers of Louisiana is saddening. That they seem to do it for the boyish boast of it (see these conclusive videos [Vid one […] – [Vid two  […]), is sickening to anyone who has seen a tarpon inhale a fly and then watched the end of his or her line explode like a just struck blue-tip match. To witness the animal aerialize and punch a dozen holes in the water is an awesome and inspiring site, and shines brightly as a memory for a lifetime. Such memories are beacons of light for the fight to save tarpon.

Once you pass that Rubicon

The Louisiana spearing slaughter is all cloaked in a shroud of science and championed by a New Orleans medical doctor by the name of Will Stein, III who continues to claim that a “research” factor is involved in the killing of tarpon and has promised to keep requesting that tarpon be killed on his behalf – paying in-fact for corpses at an up-coming Hell Divers event (see Hell Divers’ tournament agenda below – you won’t believe your eyes). Stein’s current thesis (he’s in a PhD program at the University of New Orleans) is already completed and the continued slaughter of adult tarpon appears completely unnecessary. Testing technology for data collection can currently be accomplished without harm to the animal.

Sanity in the spearing world

Don DeMaria, a tagging expert and highly respected member of the spearfishing community explains: ” . . . fin rays can be used to determine age, growth, and diet. DNA can be obtained from a fin clip or tissue sample. Even diet can be determined. Spear tagging is effective and does not stress the tarpon, no lengthy fight, no air embolism, no damage from flopping around on the deck, no damage to the eyes, etc. And it is fast and effective. Even transponders and pop off satellite tags can be deployed in this manner. I would estimate that a good diver, working under good conditions, with plenty of tarpon around, could easily tag 100 in a day. Thousands can be tagged in a single season.” NOTE: Tarpon are listed as an ineligible species by the International Underwater Spearfishing Association.


Of Stein’s postulations a few seem a bit off. He believes that Florida is the cause of the decline in tarpon stocks in the Gulf states because of past practices of killing tarpon (decades ago), and today’s post catch-and-release mortality in Florida is phenomenally high. He never mentions that killing tarpon for the boast was and is the case in the Gulf states as well the decline in Gulf states tarpon might be the fault of current and past kill-blessing regulations or no regulations at all, like Louisiana. In Louisiana you can kill as many tarpon as you can every day of the year. Too, habitat reduction has played a significant role in tarpon population reduction. We also feel he is misrepresenting the findings of a study done by Dr. Kathy Guindon by incorrectly extrapolating PTTS data to come to a conclusion about an overall Florida tarpon mortality rate. The latter seems to be convenient conclusion that satisfies a predetermined outcome. Dr. Guindon’s field research primarily took place in Boca Grande, Florida which is known for high mortality rates of tarpon. In her words, it is “an observational study of guided tarpon trips that use two predominant tarpon fishing methods (‘either traditional live-bait or artificial breakaway jigs’) in Boca Grande Pass, a world famous tarpon fishing destination, and the recreational fishery of Tampa Bay. The study estimates  short-term post-release mortality rates.”

Stein assumes her results are applicable to the rest of Florida, which is a flawed approach. That’s like looking at crime rates in Detroit and assuming they apply to the rest of the country. This is not the case. For that reason, her estimates were on the high end. The rest of Florida’s experiences are much lower in fishing mortality rates. (Click here to read Dr. Kathy Guindon’s study).

Are the tarpon stocks less now than 50-years ago? Yes, and that’s why responsible anglers, conservationists and government administrators must coalesce and stop the wanton killing of tarpon.

Late to the game?

Also important to consider is the economic boon that tarpon fishing could bring to many of the Gulf states. If the Gulf states enact no kill regulations for tarpon in state waters and the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Gulf Council), National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Southeast Region, and Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission get their acts together and ban tarpon killing in federal waters, other Gulf states might begin to enjoy a robust tarpon sport-fishing economy similar to what Florida has.

Fishing for tarpon in Florida supports thousands of guides.  They generate millions of taxable dollars.  Do tarpon occasionally die from hook-and-line fishing in Florida? Yes. However, killing a tarpon is not the intention of the Florida fishermen and the majority of them will do everything possible to save a tarpon’s life. At FLM, we support the education of guides and anglers on the proper handling techniques of tarpon to reduce the mortality rates. We do not support the killing of tarpon.  We do not support the dragging of tarpon to weigh stations. We do not support the breakaway jig technique that can result in damaging foul hooking and increased mortality rates. If managed correctly, this species has the ability to create great tax revenue, jobs and the proliferation of thousands of businesses in the fishing industry as well as perimeter businesses like hotels and restaurants patronized by lovers of this species. Dead tarpon decrease the revenue potential for all states.

The bad news lads

Hell Divers Sportfishing Club of Louisiana currently cheers the killing of tarpon on oil rigs from point blank range – calling it  “sport” and “science?”


Doctarpon (Will Stein, III, MD) is offering a prize of $100 for the largest Lionfish.
$100 for largest tarpon over 110 lbs. Rig number (oil rig) and depth must be privately sent to Dr. Tarpon (to protect secret spots) or Alex Fogg to receive reward.
$100 for smallest tarpon under 25 lbs. Rig number and depth must be privately sent to Dr. Tarpon or to Alex Fogg to receive award.
$300 reward for a spawning capable female tarpon. 1 award will be given for each of the 2 largest spawning capable female tarpon. Tarpon will be dissected but spawning status may take 3 weeks to determine.
Total possible awards $900.

More to come on this vastly important issue. Stay tuned to Fly Life for the next step towards saving these amazing creatures.


Author Skip

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Join the discussion 19 Comments

  • Andrew Derr says:

    There is a vast array of amazing comments from the article that preceded this one: Wanna know what the lack of regs looks like?
    Thanks for participating in the conversation.

  • Skip says:

    More needs to be accomplished to get the senseless slaughter of tarpon stopped in federal waters,

  • motherfroanotherbrother says:

    Hell Divers Coonass Cook Book
    These are the recipes the Hell Divers use to cook the mookies nobody else wants to eat.
    We don’t waste a thing.
    Barracuda, Jack Crevalle, Spadefish, Triggerfish, Black Drum, Tarpon, and Stingray
    I think the first fish I ate when I got in the Hell Divers was Barracuda.
    That is a very popular fish at rodeos because it’s one everybody can get.
    Underneath that stinky smell and is some wonderful greenish colored meet.
    But when fried it turns white as snow. You can feed an army of people with a 40lb. barracuda.
    Jack Crevalle
    Known for its red meat Jack Crevalle is best smoked,
    First cut his tail on the boat and bleed the fish from the water you speared it
    to the house you clean it at,
    Take the top part of the shoulder of a Jack, this is usually the best part,
    make sure all of the blood line is out of it,
    season it with a heavy dose of Soy Sause and Tony’s, then put in the smoker
    for till you can stick a fork in it without feeling any raw meat.
    You can squeeze lemon on it after but it’s better to use oranges.
    For that special added flavor put some sliced pineapples on top.
    Serve with some rice pilaf and your guests will think there eating
    Thanksgiving Ham and Rice!!!
    Spadefish is one of the most abundant fish in the gulf with a great majority of them
    showing up in the West Delta and Grande Isle blocks. For years when my father and I
    caught them we discarded them as not being good to eat, till one day my dad brought
    one home and we fried it with the bull croakers and red snappers we had caught that day.
    I never threw another one back again.
    Very simple, season and fry, try it you’ll like it.
    The most difficult thing to a triggerfish is learning how to clean it. They have skin like sand paper
    and will dull your knofe if you don’t know what you’re doing. First you cut the anal fin and the upper
    fin just opposite of the anal fin off of the fish. This is your gateway to heaven and all of that wonderful
    meat inside of the fish. Always when filleting a trigger cut from the inside of the fish towards the
    Once you get the fillets off of the fish, make sure to leave them on the skin. Taking them off
    the skin will leave you with a dry piece of fish.
    Spray the skin with Pam, then season with Tony’s and cayenne pepper and throw on the barbeque
    pit. As with all fish if you cook it fast you change the texture of the meat and ruin the fish.
    Black Drum
    Because we’re spear fishermen we usually don’t get the little “puppy drums” they server
    in restaurants, we get the big ones. We usually don’t fool around with the meat towards
    the tail section because it gets too many worms in it. But that is no reason to let the rest
    of the fish go to waste.
    First put fillet in oven with 350 degree heat for 30 minutes, then
    get 2 cans of Rotel tomatoes, 2 cans of diced tomatoes, preferably garlic flavor,
    put in a black roasting pot and boil on stove top till meat falls apart. Also cook some mashed
    potatoes with a stick of Velveeta cheese and chopped green onions and tell your friends
    they’re eating red fish coubillion and they will never know the difference.
    Tarpon and Garfish
    When you get a hold of one of these babies you have fish to eat for weeks. The trick is how
    do you get to the meat through all those thick scales. No dought about it the scales have to come
    off first, you will never cut through them. Take a flat blade shovel, yes a shovel, you are dealing
    with a fish that may weigh a hundred pounds or more. With the shovel you can scrape enough of
    the scales off the fish to be able to get to all that meat. This process is not necessary with the garfish.
    You simply cut the meat out of the top and bottom portions of the fish in hunks. Don’t worry about
    clean cuts just dig it out and put it in a large salad bowl. This is where you will have to learn how
    to make an Italian dish called “Modiga”.
    We use Modiga to stuff fish with but it’s main use is on the top of artichokes. It’s the stuffing used.
    To make Modiga, get some Italian bread crumbs in a bag, chop several cloves of garlic and several
    bunches of parsley into it. Next add a whole bunch of lemon. You can’t add too much.
    Then run you meat and Modiga through a meat grinder. You can ad fennel seads if you want at this
    point. Afterwards you can make it into balls and cook with red gravy, or fry them, or you can put it
    casings as sausage. My freezer is always full of the stuff.
    We usually get very large stingrays with very large wings. And the wings are yummy. We simply
    make scallops out of them. You cut the wings of the stingray off and skin them. Then with a cookie
    cutter you cut cookie size chunks out of the wings. My favorite is to make a white wine sauce, with
    mushrooms, artichoke hearts, black olives and sun dried tomatoes. Simmer this down is a frying pan
    and then throw your scallops in the pan. Cover and cook till the scallops are tender. This is an awesome
    gourmet dish. Serve with dirty rice and white wine.
    I hope you will enjoy these recipes for mookie fish. The Hell Divers can’t stand to waste a fish and with such a bountiful Gulf we had to learn several ways to prepare the fish we harvest. Nest time you have a party try one of these recipes and your guests will say, “That was good, but what the Hell was it”?

    • Ihatetarponklllers says:

      Hey “motherfromanothalaignappe”, you are a basic Internet coward promoting eating tarpon after scaling them with a shovel? Give me a break! Your response to being deprived of seeing tarpon spawn is to whack one with a blow stick so you can scale it with a shovel. Oh, and then you want to blame Obama for your whack job craziness? You wouldn’t say those things to anyone in person parce que vous etes un petit fou cochon. You aint no conservationist so get your stupidity off the Internet and into the psychiatrist where it belongs

  • Andrew says:

    @MotherFromAnotherBrother- You are the same MFAB who commented on the last article?

    You said, “Who gives a flying f#$! about a big silver minnow. Go ahead, try to get the feds to bann spearing of tarpon if federal waters, (it’ll never happen because there ain’t no back room deals for a shit fish) and I’ll pound all those motherf#$!ers before they get out the marsh.”

    I think you may have blown your credibility with that one.

  • motherfroanotherbrother says:

    Do you wanna know what is so pathetic? You guys have no clue!

    Have any of you seen Tarpon spawn? I have!

    Do any of you realize the habitat that is being depleted everyday, at the hands of our federal government where these spawning orgies took place?

    Tarpon are never going to be what they were, the offshore habitat is gone thanks to the Obama administration and it’s knee jerk reaction to the BP oil spill.. Mandating that all rigs that have been decommissioned for longer than 6 months have to be removed.

    The tarpon pic in my avitar or videos, the one with hundreds around me, hasn’t happened again, since the removal of the Essential Offshore Habitats, known as MP 305. Not only did tarpon spawn there, but so did groupers,,,,it’s all gone.

    The tarpon we find now are not the mature ones, (yall kill those in Boca Grande), we find all of the fingerlings in our bayous and ditches. Louisiana is THE tarpon factory, not Florida. We have the estuaries, that are producing these fish.

    You can attribute, tarpon declines with habitat destruction. Mail your letters to Obama and Salazar, the Hell Divers have cause no problem, so get over it.

  • Andrew says:

    We like to save tarpon.

  • motherfroanotherbrother says:

    Why do you want to save them?

    Is it because you want to take clients out, charge them out the ass to catch a tarpon on a fly rod, and wear the fish out so bad that he can’t escape being eaten by bulls and hammerheads?

    Sounds kinda selfish too me!

  • Andrew says:

    Your credibility is totally shot with one simple statement: “Who gives a flying f#$! about a big silver minnow. Go ahead, try to get the feds to bann spearing of tarpon if federal waters, (it’ll never happen because there ain’t no back room deals for a shit fish) and I’ll pound all those motherf#$!ers before they get out the marsh.”
    To answer your question precisely, we give a flying f#$! We like to save them. According to you, you like to kill them.

  • motherfroanotherbrother says:

    @ Andrew, save them so the hammerheads don’t go hungry?
    Or save them for your clients who you charge out the ass?

    Whatever I like to do, I’m not as efficient as you.

  • Andrew says:

    @MFAB- I am not a tarpon guide. I do not kill tarpon. You are, once again, ill informed. Good luck with your endeavors.

  • motherfroanotherbrother says:

    @ Andrew, so what are you saving them for?

    Do you fish them?

    Do you wear them out for the Hammerheads and Bulls?

    Are you even a user group of the resource, or are you some kind of enviro-nazi, hell bent on the stoppage of all recreational fishing in the United States?

  • yakattack says:

    Ok kiddies, dont be throwing dirt clauds at each other.

    Personally I dont fish for sport, I fish for food and I never take in more than I plan to eat for dinner if I catch anything worth eating at all. I’m a kayak fisherman myself and have landed a couple of tarpon. There is nothing more fun than fighting a tarpon and getting dragged around a little in the water. Granted, that none of the tarpon I landed were giants, but catching those 15-20 pounders is quite a fun filled fight for a kayak. I always throw them back because they are not good eating and I dont buy tarpon tags.

    As for inedible fish, I dont see the point of bringing it back to shore unless you plan on eating it or doing something usefull which there isnt… Other than pasting it on your wall. I’m not a tree hugger or anything like that, but spearfishing giant tarpon for “RESEARCH” is pointless. The Japanese play this card with their whaling, they claim that their whaling is nothing more than “RESEARCH” of menke whale but have atrociously high quotas, but after being personnally stationed in Japan for 4 years, I have seen plenty of whale on the menu and in the fish markets. They do this regardless of the many regulations against excessive whaling in international waters. And no I am not taking this info from those green peace freeks from Whale Wars, though I do like their thwarting efforts that are in fact paying off, this is first hand experience.

    Tarp101 makes a point “The tarpon swim lazily around you until you pick one out and shoot it. Maybe I don’t understand but is this “sporting” to anybody?”

    Fishing is done in many ways, and as much as I dont go so low as to spearfish but instead use my wits and angling techniques instead to give the fish a fighting chance at life, poaching and bringing them to a dock cutting them up then throwing them back and saying “RESEARRRRCH” is pretty BS.

    I am not going to just drop dimes on Helldivers as they are probably not the only group out their doing this, but there does need to be limits on this both in federal and state waters. We humans are, by far, the most destructive force on this planet and those who fail to put common sense into play on their “RESEARCH”(SPORT) efforts are contributors of the destruction to an oceans ecosystem of the only known planet able to sustain human life. We’ve already done a great job at harming the numerous land species here already.
    … Yes this has been copied foward to get on the up to date blog.

  • yakattack says:

    nononono dont throw that link shtuff in here. I was posting facts and not pointing fingers. In fact it was on topic as a continue forward from the previous one that was posted.

    But still, stop throwing “dirt clauds” at each other. State facts, put numbers in to argue your points.

    We understand you like to save tarpon, we also understand that there are fishermen out there spear, net or fishing pole who could give a damn about regs. Again, my point still stands in the comment above. If you all dont like debate, then dont post 🙂

  • Ihatetarponklllers says:

    @yakattack, I agree with just about everything you say. No doubt there are many unscrupulous fishermen who violate regs. There is no “research” purpose in whacking a docile tarpon swimming next to you off of an oil rig. However, I have no difficulty in throwing dirt on “mofobro”, because his posts are just plain stupid. I have spent a lot of time in Lousiana, and I can assure you they don’t eat Jack, or Tarpon. There are too many redfish, snapper, grouper, cobia, crawfish, etc. that people won’t waste there time. “Mofobro” just plain old likes to kill things. And BTW, Louisiana is just one of the areas that Tarpon migrate to in the Summer months on their journey. Saying “Louisiana is the Tarpon factory” is a little bit of a stretch

  • motherfroanotherbrother says:

    For your information, tarpon grow in Louisiana estuaries. On roadside ditches all over the state, Dr. Stein has cast netted baby tarpon.
    As soon as the water clears up I am going to bring the Dr. to a rig that holds a few hundred tarpon every time I go. Not the big 100+ pounders, but 40-60 pounders. The big 100+ pounders have no where to go since the federal government dynamited and pulled up Main Pass 305-306 rigs.

    But all of you internet know-it-alls aready knew that, right?

    If you want to know where the fish are, all you have to do is get in the water……

  • yakattack says:

    Or in another words nowhere for you all to look for the big ones. Just because uncle sam pulled a rig doesn’t mean that the tarpon are now in danger LOL, it just means you all lost a honey hole. See, tarpon are migratory, which is previously mentioned. I am sure that up to 300 million years of their various species of existance have they ever needed to rely on a rig. If you look at florida statistics you will find that the average tarpon mortality went from about 340 to about 70. Can you guess why this is? Conservation and a price tag. Fl enacted $50 kill tags in ’89 and by 98 the numbers of tarpon killing droped to about 70, and the great thing is that fish and game down here in the keys is extremely vigilant and good at what they do. People already pay premiums for fishing licenses not including the tags to back up lobster, tarpon or other gaming fish, so it makes people think twice before keeping an outlawed/regulated species. Regs need to be tightened up in LA regarding this issue. I am all about preventing freedom infringement even up to the point of not wanting any more firearm regs, but when it comes to conservation, I am all about that. If you already know that it takes about 15 years for a tarpon to mature, than why kill them for “RESEARCH” it doesn’t take a DR. Einstein to know this, just a little googling from prior research. Also take in mind that Tarpon will not hang around areas where they are overfished. Tarpon, like many fish, send out distress when they are speared or caught by angling. To much fishing in one area causes fish to be extremely timid, and migratory fish tend to vary their routes. Example I like to fish for big mangrove snapper, but need to paddle out to another mangrove island about 3 miles out because the big “Legal” size snapper just wont bite very much in the boating channels, but get away from the majority of popular fishing spots and tourists, and fish will grab anything. The reef is the same way. Definately enough said on my points, just another “RESEARCH” group using that word as an excuse.

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